Teacher endowment reaches $1 million

Dear Mrs. Drew, Eight years ago your scholarship helped me become a teacher. … I love my students and my work. There is nothing more satisfying than helping a child become a reader … with deepest regards.

Dear Mrs. Drew, I recently learned that I have been selected to receive a Janette Drew scholarship at PSU this year. I am honored to be chosen for such a generous award. It will be an enormous help as I find ways to finance my education as a teacher.

Dear Mrs. Drew, thank you so much for your generous scholarship. … I have subsisted at the poverty line for two years now as an Americorps volunteer and have no savings or external support . … I basically decided that if I didn’t receive some sort of scholarship assistance, I would have to postpone my education.

These excerpts came from a few of the thank-you letters received by Janette Drew in the months before her death January 20, 2003, at the age of 94. This month, the PSU Graduate School of Education sadly closed the book on the long-time scholarship additions from the Portland resident.

Her total gifts and legacy in the decade since 1993 add up to an endowment of more than $1 million. In March, PSU received the final $700,000 from Drew’s estate as a continued scholarship provision for the Graduate Teacher Education Program. That tripled the annual scholarship dollars available to students in the program.

Sandra Wiscarson, director of development for the Graduate School of Education, explained the crucial nature of endowments to the GTE program. Under reorganization in the state system a few years ago, Portland State does not have an undergraduate education program. Prospective teachers cannot enroll as undergraduates and earn a bachelor’s degree in education, leading to a teaching certificate. The GTE program takes students who have a baccalaureate in some other field, such as math or science, and gives them a four-quarter graduate education leading to a teaching certificate.

“This prepares them to become teachers in elementary school, middle school or secondary school,” Wiscarson said. Since elimination of the plateau in taking credit hours, a student in the GTE program faces costs of about $16,000 to $17,000 for the four-quarter program.

“The program prescribes 14 to 16 credit hours per quarter,” Wiscarson said. “And the students are asked not to work while they are in the program.”

Drew, who married Everett Drew, an engineer, in 1936, established and funded scholarships at Portland State, University of Oregon and Oregon State University. In 1993 she established the scholarships at Portland State for students who wanted to become teachers and had shown community leadership in the metro area. She gave $100,000 to start the endowment in 1995 and gave her residence to the graduate school in 1998 to increase the endowment. The bequest of $700,000 completed the life philanthropy of Drew and tripled the amount of annual scholarship dollars available for students in the GTE program.

Wiscarson said at the present condition of the investment market, the $1 million endowment will realize a growth of about 4 percent, or $40,000 for scholarship grants. This will provide a predicted eight to 16 scholarship grants. The grants will likely run from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on need.

Wiscarson had a pleasant personal relationship with Drew and has pictures of her on the walls of her office.

“I used to take her berries and flowers,” Wiscarson said. “She always wanted to talk about her students. What really mattered what that she could help students, to make it easy for them. She used to say, ‘Well, I’m just glad I could help.'”

This year PSU has one student on a Drew grant. A total of 55 scholarships have been awarded since the beginning of the Drew awards, as it’s a selective program. Wiscarson said of about 175 students who have applied for the scholarships, about 60 have been selected.

“It’s a validation that someone believes in them,” Wiscarson said, referring to the successful applicants. “It honors the kind of work they want to do, to become a teacher.”

Many of the applicants, she said, may be seeking a mid-career change. The average age is 30 something and all have a degree in something other than education.

Applications for the Drew grants are due April 15 with the awards to be made probably in early June.

“What mattered to Mrs. Drew was the outcome,” Wiscarson said. “She wanted to make it possible for students to get a teaching certificate and not be in so much debt. She wanted teachers who would make a difference in the lives of so many children. She saw the scholarships an investment in children’s education.”

The Drew endowment is only one of 15 scholarship programs offered by the graduate school of education. Some are specific to various areas of education. Applicants for a scholarship must write a personal statement describing distinguishing qualities, experience and educational goals. The statement must include relevant activities or community service. The application also must include two professional letters of support from teachers or supervisors.

To specifically apply for a Drew scholarship, the applicant must be eligible for admission to the program, must show prior and ongoing community leadership in the greater Portland metropolitan area, must demonstrate academic excellence and show financial need.

The PSU Graduate School of Education is Oregon’s largest and most comprehensive school of education. The dean is Phyllis Edmundson.

Questions may be addressed to Wiscarson at 503-725-4789.